When Covance and WuXi PharmaTech recently announced they were abandoning a planned joint venture for preclinical research services in China, Covance was at pains to emphasise that its enthusiasm for the Chinese market remained undimmed.

That goes for two other US-based contract research organisations (CROs), Charles River Laboratories and MPI Research, which within two days of each other this month announced the opening of their respective preclinical research facilities in Shanghai.

Charles River’s 60,000 sq ft facility is expected to start providing Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)-standard services in the first quarter of 2009. It is part of the joint venture agreement with local preclinical specialist Shanghai BioExplorer announced by the US CRO in March 2007. The resulting joint venture, Charles River Preclinical Services Greater China, is 75% owned by Charles River, which is also managing the preclinical facility in Shanghai and training its staff.

“The rapidly growing economy and native science talent position China as an emerging powerhouse in the life sciences industry,” said Kewen Jin, general manager, Charles River Shanghai. “Charles River is making a key strategic investment in local resources and staff to support the drug development programmes of both multinational and native biopharmaceutical organisations in China.”

MPI’s preclinical operation in Shanghai also involves a joint venture with a local company, Shanghai Medicilon, although in this case ownership of the venture is equally split. MPI announced its plans to set up the 50,000sq ft preclinical testing facility in Shanghai’s Chuansha Economic Park in December 2007.

Dr Chun-Lin Chen, co-founder of Shanghai Medicilon, is chief executive officer (CEO) of the joint venture, Medicilon/MPI Preclinical Research-Shanghai. William Parfet, chairman and CEO of MPI Research in Mattawan, US, is chairman of the venture’s board of directors.

By next year, the partners said, Medicilon/MPI Preclinical Research-Shanghai will be fully operational in terms of conducting US GLP studies for investigational new drug (IND) applications in MPI’s home market. Like Charles River’s facility, it will also have accreditation from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC).

“With the addition of this important new preclinical development resource in China, Medicilon/MPI Preclinical Research Shanghai will usher in a new era of pharmaceutical development and will create the beginning of the ‘Second Silk Road’ for China,” commented Dr Stephen Porter, the joint venture’s chief scientific officer.